Written by Audrey Jonas | Photography by Louie Abellera Weddings
Weddings are about public declarations of love, and not just between the newlyweds. Guests giving toasts and speeches at the wedding reception are important traditions. It’s a chance to include some close family or friends on your big day and hear their reflections and well wishes upon the marriage.
When it comes to toasts, couples should choose a few people important to them to make a few remarks, give them plenty of notice and make sure to express their gratitude for their time and effort.
But sometimes — a few weeks before the wedding — the couple gets a panicked text. Their friend is freaking out. They procrastinated and they don’t know where to start! Wedding speech writing can be nerve-wracking, but here is a basic guide to the structure of a wedding speech, and a few other tips to keep in mind on the big day.
START WITH A BRIEF GREETING
No need to say “for those of you who don’t know me.” You’re making a speech, so guests know you’re important! Somewhere early in the speech, drop a reference to your college days or crawling around in diapers together and the guests will put together how you know each other.
TELL A QUICK STORY OR ANECDOTE
Think about the earliest memory of your friend/family member, a funny story that would be relatable to everyone there or a time they showed you what a great loved one they are.
This is your time to be funny, but don’t let that overwhelm you! Try to interject humor by borrowing some of the same tactics stand-up comedians use — exaggerating stories slightly for impact, using analogies and calling back something from earlier in the speech. Taking a wedding speech writing class with other people is a great way to get feedback and learn from professionals about how to punch up jokes and get the whole wedding rolling with laughter.
REFLECT ON THE RELATIONSHIP
Sometimes you know one person in the couple better than the other, and that’s OK! It’s normal to have only met the bride or groom a handful of times. Make sure to acknowledge your first impressions of their new spouse, how you feel they are a good pairing or what you admire about them. This is the time to be sincere and heartfelt.
Try to avoid terms like “peas in a pod,” “always has my back” or “ride or die,” but instead think about what feelings or experiences these phrases convey and personalize them to your friend or the couple. Again, personal anecdotes go a long way!
END ON A WELL-WISH
Most importantly — end on a well-wish! It’s a toast after all — what do you want everyone to toast to? Some ideas for an ending line include: a brief wish for their future, a theme throughout their life or relationship that you want them to continue, a short cultural reference or traditional phrase (like an Irish blessing, an enthusiastic “L’chaim!” or an old proverb) or saying from their culture.
When you’re writing, keep it short. Plan for no more than five minutes, which is slightly less than one single-spaced typed page. Before the big day, print your speech on paper or write it out – it’s an extra step that makes a big difference in pictures – and it’s easier to see than your phone screen! Don’t forget to bring your drink up with you so you can raise your glass while speaking. If you’re using a microphone, remember to hold it close to your mouth. If you don’t have a lot of experience with a microphone, it’s OK to ask the DJ for a mic check to practice using it.
Approach confidently and wait for everyone’s attention to get started — you got this!
No matter what, remember that the couple asked you because they wanted to hear your kind words or unique perspective. It is an honor to be asked to be a part of a special day. We only have a few opportunities in life to tell the people we love what they mean to us, so get started early, come prepared and have fun!
About the Author
Audrey Jonas is a stand up comedian, former faculty at the Second City Training Center and the instructor of the Wedding Toast Warm Up, a fun two-day, four hour class to learn how to write a killer wedding toast.
After spending years helping her friends express their love, calm their nerves, and punch up their jokes, she knew she could lend her talents to people all over the Chicagoland area at the Lincoln Lodge Training Center, one of the city’s best places to see stand up and take comedy writing classes. For professional guidance on your wedding speeches, you can reach her directly at [email protected].